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Abstract

Through a close examination of Amnesty International’s (Amnesty) own arguments and sources, this paper demonstrates that Amnesty’s proposal to decriminalize prostitution or “sex work” will harm those it claims to help. It concludes that the best available evidence indicates that decriminalization of prostitution would: increase sex trafficking, leave prostituted women or “sex workers” more vulnerable to violence, and reduce access to healthcare, protection, and services. Prostituted women primarily enter the industry at a young age, often suffering from a history of sexual and physical abuse, coming from marginalized and vulnerable communities, and driven by emotional and economic desperation. It is in this context that prostituted women “consent” to sell themselves in the extremely risky and dangerous sex industry. But instead of helping victims of sexual exploitation, Amnesty’s proposal will mostly benefit their abusers—the mostly male consumers and organizers of the sex industry. Amnesty reaches its flawed conclusion by consistently misreading the evidence, engaging in selective skepticism, and ignoring the troubling legal and practical implications of its own policy. Amnesty rejects decades of scholarly research on the basis of few sources—in one case from close to half a century ago—and sometimes misreads the reports they rely on. Amnesty consulted primarily with those most likely to support its position—the “sex workers”—rather than the sex trafficking victims, adult survivors of prostitution and the child victims of commercial sexual exploitation who are the most harmed by the sex industry.

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